A suspected arsonist almost put paid to one of the city’s favourite takeaways when Zeba was set alight.
Two months later, the business has risen from the ashes like a culinary phoenix to move two miles from its former home in Hylton Road to North Bridge Street.
As well as being a takeaway, the Balti house is now a sit-down restaurant.
Last time I ate on this site it was Scuzi, a short-lived pizzeria which followed in the footsteps of more established Italian restaurant Rustico.
I’d been impressed with Scuzi’s decor which was light, airy and welcoming. Zeba has retained these touches with sage green walls, crisp immaculately-white table cloths and quirky vases and trinkets on the window sills.
It’s stuck to its roots with food though.
The menu’s a whopping selection of special dishes such as Imlidar Misti Hansh (duck with tamarind and honey in a mild sauce for £7.95), balti dishes which start at £6.85 for a vegetable dish, tandoori dishes and curries.
I’m useless when it comes to Indian restaurants. I never know what to choose.
Luckily, I had a Shields lass with me who was practically raised on Ocean Road, so she was able to point me in the right direction.
Service was a little blunt from one waiter, but his colleague was perfectly affable and was keen to get our feedback.
Aside from the curt service manner, our only other quibble was that we couldn’t order alcohol with our meal. Not uncommon in Indian restaurants, but I believe it has applied for an alcohol license.
To start, my Sandancer friend recommended the chicken chat. I’ve not had this starter before, but I think it might be my new favourite.
Served with a chapati, for your £3.50 you get a good-sized portion of chicken in a lip-smacking blend of spices, almost like a meaty Bombay mix.
For my main I chose one of the more expensive dishes on the menu, tandoori king prawn, which will set you back £10.90.
It can be easy to make this dish a little too dry, but Zeba got it just right. I enjoyed every minute of my prawns, though I would have preferred a better mix of salad, other than just cucumber and lettuce.
As there were no booze costs to contend to, our bill for four came to a reasonable £70.
The sit-in meal deal is a particularly good bargain. Running from 5pm to 11pm, Thursdays and Sundays, you can pick up a four-course meal for £8.90.
Though it’s situated on one of the city’s main throughfares, I think previous restaurants on this spot have suffered from a slow trade with not many people bothering to use the free parking spaces.
With another Indian restaurant, Monsoon Kitchen, opening a stone’s throw away on the former casino site, there’s more reason than ever to consider North Bridge Street for a meal. I don’t think it will ever be Sunderland’s answer to the curry mile, but it’s a great start.